Monday, April 04, 2005

Bilingual Education, Part IV--Horrible Is Great

From 10/17/02:

The text we use in my bilingual ed class is abysmal.
It's so full of whole language, NCTM-favored math, and
fuzzy beliefs that it's not even fun to comment on it
in class anymore. In fact, part of last night's
reading (on culture) said "Multicultural education is
education for social justice. It connects knowledge
and understanding with social action." I must have
missed social activism in the California math

Now having vented, I turn my attention to the subject
line. We've been taught that children learn best when
taught in a bilingual program based on a 90/10
model--90% home language and 10% second language
starting in kindergarten, progressing to 10% home
language and 90% second language in 6th grade. This
model, we are assured, has been proven effective in
Canada (French/English) and is without a doubt the
best way to teach students in two languages. "The
research" proves it.

Interestingly enough, a student in our class got his
BA in Education at a Canadian university within the
last couple years. In Canada he was taught that such
a model, long tried in Quebec, is an abject failure.
Children in those programs languish in a lack of
understanding of basic information. Those schools
consistently underperform the rest of Canada.
Pointing this out, however, made no difference. Our
text said 90/10 is the best way to teach students, and
that is that.

Last night we watched a video showing students at
Westwood Elementary School in Napa, California. It's
a mostly Hispanic school in California's wine country
and all students there participate in a 90/10 program.
The principal in the video even spoke about how their
program was modeled after successful 90/10 schools in
Canada, and she, teachers, students, and parents all
wallowed in the wonderful things going on at that
school. I told my instructor that I'd do some extra
work and look up their SAT-9 and API scores.

2002's SAT-9 results for California were posted on the
internet shortly after 10am PDT today. The school has
since been renamed Napa Valley Language Academy, but
the results were unmistakeable:

1999-2000: no score
2000-2001: 1/1
For those of you not from California, the Academic
Performance Index allows the state to rank-order
schools based on performance. For ease, schools are
put into deciles 1-10, with 1 being the lowest.

The first 1 means that the school ranks in the bottom
10% of all schools in the state in performance.

To account for demographics, the state then compares
each school to 99 schools with similar demographics.
Those 100 schools are then placed into deciles. The
purpose of this is to take such things as SES into

The second 1 means that the school ranks in the bottom
10% of schools with similar demographics.

There is no API yet given for 2001-2002, but the SAT-9
results are posted. This language program has been
going on long enough that all students K-6 have been
involved in it. The state's 5 categories for student
performance are Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below
Basic, and Far Below Basic. The results for
English/Language Arts are:

2nd grade: 69% either below basic or far below basic
3rd grade: 70% "
4th grade: 58% "
5th grade: 57% "
6th grade: 69% "
Tack on an average of an additional 22 percentage
points if you want to add in the Basic category. In
other words, over 80% of their students are not
proficient at grade level ELA standards.

The results for math ranged from 48% in the bottom two
categories in 2nd grade to 78% in the 5th grade. What
bothers me, in addition to the poor student
performance, is the fact that this school was held up
to us as a model of how bilingual education should be

God Bless Ron Unz.


Anonymous said...

My spouse works in Elementary education. She has taken several ESL classes online, and is working on her endorsement on her teaching license. Her current classroom has 2 second language learners. (One of them speaks... a language other than Spanish... gasp).

Yes, even in Jesusland, we have a growing problem with having to educate those who Bill O'Reilly calls "wetbacks."

Ok, I'll admit that the ESL field is the home turf of the uber liberal. Why? Because conservatives don't offer a better solution. Your fix is economic segragation: have all the rich kids go to a lilly white school in the burbs while children in intercity schools are stuffed into a dirty cage to rot.

Even with all of the tremendous verse of your many posts, you haven't hinted at a fix. What is your master plan to accomodate 2nd language learners?

The bottom line is that America is rapidly becoming a bi-lingual country. As they grow in numbers, latinos are ultimately going to have the final say in bi-lingual education.

Darren said...

The solution is the same one that has worked in the past, and is working right now. It's lunchtime here at school and I don't have the information available to me (it's at home), but a rather exhaustive study on 2nd language learning has been done and the results don't surprise me: structured English immersion works best, followed by total immersion, followed by supposed bilingual but usually monolingual Spanish instruction.

This post was *not* an anti-2nd-language post. Its purpose was to show that the pro-bilingual crowd isn't honest--or effective.

Darren said...

Home now and have the information.

Christine Rossell is a professor in the Political Science Department at Boston University. She and colleagues have reviewed over 500 studies and books on bilingual education and found only 72 that were "methodologically acceptable".

The results of those 72 were clear: "The results presented here suggest that the best program for second language learners is 'structured immersion'...." "Thus, the risk of academic deficiency in English is greater for TBE (transitional bilingual education) than for all-English instruction."

An article discussing her work can be found at

I've printed her actual study from the February 1996 journal Reasearch in the Teaching of English. It lists the 500+ studies and books, identifies which ones were and were not scientifically/methodologically valid, and analyzes the results of the 72 that were up to snuff.

My solution: structured English immersion, the same program that most non-Spanish-speaking students in our schools have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Quebec, and took FSL - French as a Second Language. Our program was 100/0 - i.e. 100% French instruction starting in Kindergarten.